Shanghai's 101 must-try dishes

The best dishes in town, whatever your budget

Calamari at Italian Kitchen 26
Time Out presents the ultimate guide to the absolute must-try dishes in the city. Below is the full list of dishes as picked by our expert food critics at a glance.

To discover all the dishes read our photo galleries by price range:

What's missing from the list? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Weibo if your favourite dish didn't make the cut.

Less than 50RMB

Pork dumplings at Dapai Xiaochu, 12RMB

The steamed pork dumplings are stuffed with juicy meat folded into glossy skins. Read more

First Floor, Xin Cheng Mansion, 167 Jiangning Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu.

Beef tongue at Ebisu, 12RMB

Thick, tender cubes brushed with a sweet sauce that gives a delicate lift. Read more

99 Chengdu Nan Lu, near Changle Lu.

Mashed potato at Beyond the Clouds, 16RMB

While it may feel a bit like a Lost Heaven rip-off, the Yunnan food at this restaurant perched above Forever 21 is genuinely good. Read more

Fifth Floor, 233 Nanjing Dong Lu, near Henan Zhong Lu.

Brussel sprouts, hazelnuts, lemon and Parmesan side at Sproutworks, 20RMB

Sure to banish any lingering nightmares of overcooked Christmas sprouts. Read more

B2 Superbrand Mall, Lujiazui Ring Road.

Takoyaki at Gindaco, 25RMB

This common Japanese street snack is elevated above cheaper renditions. Read more

B2, Reel Mall, 1601 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Changde Lu.

Crispy fried pork at Shudi Hotpot, 25RMB

Addictive deep- fried pork strips sprinkled with Sichuan peppercorn powder. Read more

Second Floor, 1 Shuangfeng Bei Lu, near Xietu Lu.

Luroufan at Mixiangyuan, 28RMB

You get big juicy chunks of five-layer hand-cut pork. Read more

No 24, Lane 358, Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Madang Lu.

Foie gras sushi at Maki House, 32RMB

It’s worth trawling through the myriad stalls on ‘Tokyo Street’ to order just this. Read more

63 Tokyo Street, B2, SDC Mall, 425 Yishan Lu, near Kaixuan Lu.

Hunan-style eggs (laojia hunan dan) at Xi Na, 32RMB

This classic dish is cooked not once but twice: first hard-boiled, then flash-fried. Read more

373 Huangpi Nan Lu, near Xingye Lu.

Belgian fries at De Refter, 35RMB

These large, thick- cut chips are likely to disappear within minutes of being served. Read more

181 Jinxian Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu.

Soba at Gui, 35RMB

Beautifully al dente soba are presented on a traditional zaru bamboo tray. Read more

A3, 555 Gubei Lu, near Xianxia Lu.

Calamari at Italian Kitchen 26, 35RMB

Some of the crispiest, crunchiest calamari we’ve had in Shanghai. Read more.

23 Anfu Lu, near Changshu Lu.

Flounder and chips at The Sailors, 35RMB

The most authentic tasting fish ’n’ chips that we’ve found in the city. Read more

35 Yongkang Lu, near Jiashan Lu.

Shrimp wontons at Molokai, 36RMB

Silky packages with translucent skins float in a light broth. Read more

Xintiandi South Plaza, Bldg 6, 123 Xingye Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu.

Cajun chicken sandwich at 2nd Floor, 38RMB

Easily our favourite of the delights on offer at this bright and breezy arts hangout. Read more

810 Changle Lu, near Changshu Lu.

Ham and mushroom risotto at de Bellotas, 38RMB

Wafers of crispy jamón topping an intensely satisfying, generously cheesy risotto. Read more

68 Taicang Lu, near Shunchang Lu.

Deep-fried duck leg at Jian Guo 328, 38RMB

One dish we never skip, cooked to a chewy-tender texture. Read more

328 Jiangguo Xi Lu, near Xiangyang Nan Lu.

Croque monsieur at Farine, 40RMB

We still find ourselves struck by regular cravings for the artisan snack. Read more

First Floor, 378 Wukang Lu, near Taian Lu.

Housemade tofu at Awana, 42RMB

The housemade tofu here could convert even the most ardent bean curd skeptic. Read more

124-2 Beijing Xi Lu, near Shaanxi Bei Lu.

Poutine at Hungry Lung’s Kitchen, 45RMB

Crispy thin-cut French fries smothered in Monterrey Jack cheddar. Read more

144 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Nan Lu.

Vegetarian hongshao rou at Veg Inn, 48RMB

A unique alternative to the classic Shanghainese dish for determined vegetarians. Read more

1585 Huashan Lu, near Taian Lu.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Gold Standard Pancakes)

Gold Standard Pancakes
Not your average diner stack, this over-the-top treat from Austin Hu’s gentrified diner sees fluffy pancakes decked out with hazelnut butter, Ferrero Rocher, bacon and fried banana. 78RMB.

Mushroom toast
Sitting atop a slice of wheaten sourdough spread with a thick layer of herby ricotta, a mound of buttery mushrooms are liberally doused in truffle oil and topped with a perfectly poached egg and sprinkling of fresh thyme. 58RMB.

bread etc
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Shakshouka)

Two runny eggs are engulfed in a rich tomato sauce – that’s spiked generously with chilli – and ready to be mopped up by a wedge of pillowy challah bread in Bread etc’s brilliant rendition of the Middle Eastern poached egg dish. 62RMB.

Bacon, egg & cheddar bagelwich
A hangover cure for the ages, a chewy bagel is stuffed with bacon, fried egg and gooey cheddar cheese. Add avocado (10RMB) and a glug of the BYFO Green Machine hot sauce for good measure. 45RMB.

Photograph: courtesy Brut Cake Café (Chicken and waffle)

Chicken and waffle
A perfectly crispy and fluffy waffle stacked high with tender and savoury fried chicken, well-spiced and complemented with the sweet strokes of candied walnuts and jujube honey. 78RMB.

Fried and baked dim sum platter
With delightfully flaky pastry, this wonder-trio of BBQ pork, black pepper venison and abalone and matsutake puffs is pure bliss. 298RMB (as part of four-course brunch set).

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Complète galette)

Complète galette
RAC’s Breton-style galettes are brunch perfection on a plate (rivalled perhaps by its breakfast sandwiches, but that’s another story). Parisian ham, cheese and a brilliantly orange egg front and centre. 45RMB.

Croissant aux amandes
Much more than just an almond croissant, this hulking pastry is closer to a pie than anything,  filled generously with frangipane and showered with sliced nuts. 20RMB.

Photograph: Cat Nelson (avocado toast) 

Avocado toast
Before you judge, just wait a second – this isn't any ordinary #basic avocado toast (not that there'd be any shame if it was). As with everything at Daliah, there’s a delightful twist from the norm. Set on a thick slice of dark German bread, avocado mash seasoned with garlic, lemon and a touch of chilli support two sunny-side up eggs and crumbles of goats cheese. House-made granola is strewn about enthusiastically before the whole thing is garnished with microgreens. 69RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Jian Guo 328)

Scallion oil noodles
A Shanghai classic done right, wheat noodles are oil-tossed with tangles of caramelised scallions and crowned with delicate shrimp. 18RMB.

Wanza xiaomian
Tender noodles, fragrant greens, creamy peas, braised beef and just enough heat and numbing flavour. 12RMB.

Scallion oil pancake
You'll queue for anything up to two hours to get your hands on one of Ada's congyoubing, but it's worth it. Cash only. 7RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Mini Lemongrass Carnitas Banh Mi) 

Mini Lemongrass Carnitas Banh Mi
A brilliant take on the Vietnamese classic with tangy carnitas spiked with a sweet tamarind aioli. 78RMB.

The Inverted Philly Dip
Philly cheesesteak meets a French Dip: amazing. 98RMB.

This old Beijing-style jianbing is chewy and crunchy in all the right ways. The wheat flour pancake is topped with an egg, fermented soy sauce, a brush of chilli and a sprinkling of sliced scallion and sesame seeds, before it's wrapped with a crisp baocui at its centre. 7RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Homeslice) 

White pizza slice
A firm-but-chewy crust and a base slathered with parmesan cream and coated in mozzarella and dollops of ricotta. ’Nuff said. 25RMB (per slice); 195RMB (20-inch pizza).

Sesame noodles
A bowl of noodles drenched in thick sesame paste with a slick of chilli oil for a bargain price. 10RMB.

Babi Mantou
It's nothing fancy, but this chain store steams up some of the best baozi in the city. From 1.5RMB. 

Photograph: courtesy Glam (Truffle'd Cheese Toasties) 

Truffle’d Cheese Toasties
This unassuming bar bite is packed with a decadent punch from truffle and tangy cheese that belies its humble appearance. 52RMB.

Red oil wontons
Meaty wontons without too much skin but plenty of delicious, hot and numbing Sichuan flavour. 22RMB.

Ubiquitous Truffle House-made Fries
Passing the litmus test of a good fry with flying colours, these crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside chips were good enough on their own, and then they made it even better with truffle. 48RMB.

There's always a line, and they stop selling these at 10am. Go early to get these seriously hearty xiaohuntun.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Shengjianbao)

The traditional Shanghai style of fried soup dumpling – pillowy soft up top and perfectly crisp on the bottom. 8RMB for four.

Yellow croaker noodles
The huangyu mian from this Ningbo hole-in-the-wall are well deserving of their fame. White flakes of croaker fish float atop a rich, salty broth bathing a bed of noodles. 26RMB.

Xiancai banmian
This famous Shanghainese noodle joint pulls in huge crowds through its lunchtime sittings for its freshly pulled noodles tossed with xiancai. 12RMB.

Crab xialongbao
The delicate dumpling skin of Jia Jia's xiaolongbao encases a steamy fragrant crab soup. 99RMB for 12.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (beef tartare)

Beef tartare 
The wizards in the kitchen at RAW – and by wizards we mean heartthrob Juan Campos and team – take simple ingredients and turn them into something magical. For the tartare, finely sliced Chilean wagyu is served on a bed of crushed ice with smoked egg yolk and a shallot and onion garnish. Accompanied by bread crisps and a side of fries, it’s more than enough to share between two or more as an appetiser. 128RMB.

Fine de Claire oysters
A side of lemon, shallot vinaigrette and ginger ponzu sauce bring these famed oysters out of their shell. 198RMB per dozen.

Photograph: courtesy Jean-Georges (Egg Caviar) 

Egg Caviar
Jean-Georges takes the humble oeuf to a whole new level (and price point) with its signature Egg Caviar. Presented in a shell, silky scrambled egg is topped with vodka-whipped cream and capped with a healthy spoonful of caviar. 388RMB; 88RMB (happy hour).

Firm but tender octopus tentacles come coated in gochujang – sweet, spicy and tasting a bit like rice cracker snacks from 7-Eleven, in a very, very good way. 118RMB.

el willy
Photograph: courtesy El Willy

Salmon TNT
This is an explosive bite you'll want to savour. A crisp bread pocket is filled with sour cream and topped with Balik salmon and truffle honey. 108RMB.

Creamy Button Mushroom with Bread
The simple button mushroom never tasted so good. Served in a rich, béchamel sauce, earthy sautéed mushrooms are piled generously around a perfect runny egg yolk with shavings of parmesan and thick slices of toasted baguette for dipping. 88RMB. 

Patatas bravas
A classic done right, thick cuts of fried potato are loaded up with a lightly spiced tomato sauce and creamy mayo. 45RMB.

Vitello tonnato
An off-menu dish, the visually arresting vitello tonnato (a traditional Italian surf and turf pairing of veal and tuna) offers a charcoal-black-edged round of melt-in-your-mouth, milk-fed veal with a quenelle of tuna mousse, flanked by a bold stripe of squid ink. 118RMB.

Molecular xiaolongbao
This is chef Alvin Leung's (also of Daimon Bistro) signature dish. Imagine a classic soup dumpling with the flavour turned up to 11 and all in one lightning-quick explosion. Part of 1,680RMB set menu.


Plump mussels bathe in a creamy Thai-style coconut and chilli broth with a garnish of basil. 148RMB.

Demon chef Alvin Leung has pulled some Dr Frankenstein-style moves, mashing up a pineapple bun with a classic barbecued pork bun. The result? Some kind of ultra-buttery, insane indulgence. 32RMB (two pieces).
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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Minced pork curry katsu sando)

Minced pork curry katsu sando 
It doesn’t get much better than a meatball with a curry centre... except if you make a sandwich out of it. And there’s bacon. A blend of possibly the world’s most delicious meat, minced pork belly and caramelised onions, the patty is stuffed with curry, breaded and deep-fried. 50RMB (lunch set).

Jalabeef bagelwich
Boom Boom Bagels
A kickin' combo of beef shin, jalapeno, chives, parsley, vinegar, Tabasco, cheddar, spicy tomato, butter and cream cheese are wedged between two halves of chewy bagel. 60RMB.

Signature Butao ramen bowl
Butao Ramen
A Hong Kong ramen chain with some serious credentials, Butao's signature bowl sees a thick and luscious base of creamy tonkotsu (pork bone) soup served with a large sheet of seaweed and an egg on the side. 68RMB.

Sea of Dreams
The Ferrari of poke bowls, this slick dish packs a whole lotta punch: salmon, Hokkaido scallops, salmon roe, tobiko roe, cashews, avocado, scallions, seaweed salad and pickled cucumbers are piled high on a mound of sushi rice and liberally coated in the fishmonger's signature Dynamite sauce. 118RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (youpomian)

Zhu Que Men
Served in a portion fit for two, chewy and fresh-from-the-boil hand-pulled belt noodles are tossed in oil and topped with a blend of chillies, spring onion, garlic, bean sprouts and bok choy. Add a splash of vinegar and soy sauce, stir well and tuck in. 20RMB.

Molten Oppa Love sandwich 
The Molten Oppa Love is a grilled cheese and then some. Oozing gruyere, cheddar and mozzarella are sandwiched between two buttery slices of wholewheat sourdough, topped off with smoked cola ham and kimchi for an extra kick. 55RMB.

Nikkei Sensation bowl
Take your pick of base (grains, greens or noodles) and protein (chicken, salmon, tofu and more), slather it in a creamy sriracha sauce and load it up with avocado, pickled cucumbers, edamame and wakame seaweed. 65RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (tuna melt)

Tuna melt 
Crisp and golden brown sourdough, a fresh and punchy tuna salad and a thick coating of gooey swiss and cheddar cheese make this tuna melt pop. 49.99RMB (regular); 64.99RMB (large).

Double Char burger
Habit Burger

New York Corned Beef Reuben sandwich
A classic done right: a toasted challah bun is crammed with house-brined and smoked beef brisket, tangy sauerkraut, silky melted cheddar and a 'secret' Reuben sauce. 78RMB.
_90A9757 copyPhotograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Crab gold noodles)

Crab gold noodles
With the insides of 12 crabs (six female, six male), salt and a sprinkling of gold flakes, Cejerdary’s Xie Huangjin – literally ‘Crab Gold’ – is the stuff of simple and straightforward extravagance. Expect a queue.
1266 Kaixuan Lu, near Anshun Lu. Hongqiao Lu. 360RMB.

Stir-fried shrimp, ham and bamboo
Perhaps Ningbo’s best-kept secret, the fried bamboo slivers in this dish are basically crack, mixed up with cured ham, shrimp, gingko nuts and a shower of sugar. 78RMB.

Coconut hotpot
Salt, coconut water and chicken – that's the hotpot base. After you’re done cooking with it, don’t ditch the pot like you would at any other hotpot place. 138RMB; 198RMB (whole chicken).

Photograph: Cat Nelson (Lobster wellington)

Lobster wellington 

Roast fish head with scallion
Hidden under a mound of crisp, charred scallions and liberally doused in oil, the fish head at Jesse’s is a signature worth returning for – again and again. 228RMB (pre-order only).

Nang chao rou
Wedges of  flatbread are stir-fried with fatty chunks of mutton, onions, and a heavy coating of Xinjiang spice mix. 68RMB.

Photograph: Kenny Ong (Jiao ma ji)

Jiao ma ji 
A mountain of tender chicken, tofu, wood ear mushrooms and green onion sits in a thick pool of chicken stock mixed with numbing pepper oil. If you’re a numbing pepper addict, this dish is going to be the one that does you in. 69RMB.

Wood plank salmon fillet
Taking camp re food to a whole new level, an orange-pink slab of salmon is slow-smoked over a fire pit. The result is a piece of fish that’s all sorts of succulent, smoky and just all kinds of swoonworthy. 398RMB (quarter); 788RMB (half); 1,388RMB (full).

Fish in the Josper oven
Velvety halibut gets a kick from a drizzle of spicy parsley and garlic oil and a smoky finish from a turn in the Josper oven. A whole fish, this dish is great for sharing. 198RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (whole baked turbot) 

Whole baked turbot 
‘Whole turbot filled with brown butter sauce’ sounds so innocent, but it’s a devil of a dish. Liberally doused in a lemony browned butter sauce, this flaky fish will will linger in your mind for days. 238RMB.

Crispy mandarin fish
A dish also known as 'squirrel fish' – allegedly for its 'squirrel'-like appearance – the white fish is deboned and cut in a crosshatch pattern before being battered and deep-fried (which is when it gets that bushy 'tail' look). It's then liberally covered in an auspicious-red sticky sweet and sour sauce. 328RMB.

Braised and fried chicken

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Mapo tofu)

‘Mapo’ spicy tofu with pig brain
Silky tofu arrives coated in a vibrant red sauce studded with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and pig brain. 53RMB.

Seriously Beefy
Pie Society’s steak and ale pie takes tender pieces of steak, carrot and mushroom, braises it all in a hearty beef stock with Guinness and then wraps it all in a hot and flakey pie crust. 55RMB.

Beijing duck
For Peking duck to rival the capital, Xindalu has got your number. Cooked in the upscale restaurant's wood-fired oven, the duck is crispy and juicy in all the right places. 238RMB (half).

Photograph: courtesy Gemma (Pest pizza)

Pesto pizza
This brilliantly simple pizza takes one of Gemma's signature Neapolitan-style bases (characterised by their cloud-like crust), covers it in a blanket of crème fraîche, and tops it off with delicate slices of prosciutto, lashings of herb mascarpone and homemade basil pesto. 120RMB.

Hongshao rou 
Ren He Guan


Typhoon shelter-style corn 

Dry spaghetti verrigni ‘oro’

Photograph: Amy Snelling (bone marrow, orecchiette) 

Bone marrow, orecchiette
A dish that's all kinds of rich, chewy, ear-shaped orecchiette come coated in a long-simmered ragù sauce, served with fabulously unctuous roasted bone marrow. 168RMB.

Black truffle, three cheeses and farm egg pizza
A mélange of juicy mushrooms, an extra gooeyness from generous servings of parmesan, mozarella and fontina cheeses, and the runny egg that spreads equally over each slice make this one phenomenally tasty pizza. 218RMB.
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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Crispy Date)

Crispy Date 
Super sweet and fatty, these dates are exceptional, served alongside roasted cauliflower, turnip, curry and cocoa, each playing off brilliantly against the bright grassiness of celery fronds. 75RMB

Beetroot quinoa burger
The plant-based burgers at this health-focused vegetarian restaurant (there's even a strict no-frying policy) are signatures. Vibrant, fresh and packed with flavour – served with a lick of vegan mayo, smashed avocado, pickle, tomato and a muddle of organic sprouts – the quinoa and beet burger easily holds its own against its beef counterpart. If beets aren't your jam go for the portobello mushroom and pineapple burger (58RMB). 52RMB. 

Less is more with this delightfully simple pizza that relies on three key ingredients: DOP buffalo mozzarella, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. Bellissimo. Insider tip: go for the late-night menu from 10pm Thursday to Saturday when all pizzas are 100RMB. 150RMB.

Photograph: Cat Nelson (Treasure Box)

Treasure Box 

Biang biang fried tempeh
Not the imposing bowl of belt noodles you might expect when you see 'biang biang' on a menu, but just as delightful. 26RMB.

Vegan macaroni
Cashew sauce is the creamy secret behind this light macaroni salad side. 18RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Falafel) 

Falafel wrap
Eli Falafel
There’s falafel and then there’s falafel. Eli’s is the latter – with a crisp outer layer that conceals a fluffy, herby centre. For this dish, the chickpea patties are wrapped together tightly with tomato, pickle, parsley and a lashing of creamy tahini inside Lebanese flatbread. 40RMB.

Sweet and sour veggie spareribs
Vegetarian Lifestyle
These sticky morsels are everything a sweet and sour sparerib should be, just minus the meat. 38RMB.

Aloo okra massala
A blend of stir-fried potato and okra, this punchy and fragrant side dish is made to be mopped up with roti.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (fried goats cheese)

Fried goats cheese
Fried with salt and chilli, you'll be popping more pieces of this undeniably moreish cheese than you thought your stomach could stand. 26RMB.
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Photograph: courtesy Ginger (Coconut sago)

Coconut sago with pandan ice cream and palm sugar meringue
The Southeast Asian island of desserts, chewy coconut sago pairs perfectly with satin-smooth pandan ice cream and a feather- light meringue. 58RMB.

PBJ (peanut ice cream, red fruit and salted peanut caramel)

Photograph: courtesy Highline (lemon chiffon cake) 

Lemon chiffon cake

Snack Pack cookie
Available online at or via the official WeChat store (search 'StrictlyCookies'). 70RMB (five cookies).

Eduardo’s Flan

M's Famous Pavlova
Photograph: courtesy M on the Bund (M's Very Famous Pavlova) 

M's Very Famous Pavlova

Lemon & Lemon Tart

Brownie peanut butter milkshake